There is the hardware and the software of a people’s lives. Community relations have shown, time and time again, that what matters most is the management of these relations.
The challenge is greater in multi-ethnic societies, and a socially stratified polity such as Kenya. The questions are always how well are the masses doing? Do they have access to basic needs? Do they enjoy basic rights?
Does the state guarantee the security of every citizen, which is its constitutional duty?
How about ethnic relations? Are neighbours set against neighbours such as the Turkana and the Pokot; the Elgeyo and the Marakwet? How about coastal and upcountry people? What of landowners and land buyers?
Have the wounds of the Kiambaa massacre of the post-2007 election violence healed? How fairly did the state handle victims of post-election violence? Is there a sustainable plan of resolving ethnic grievances?
Have we paid reparations for victims of the Wagalla Massacre? How well are the children of the Mau Mau of the 1950s doing in the Valley? Have we bridged the land-inspired rifts in Rift Valley?
It’s addressing historical injustices that sours ethnic relations. Are we a nation bonded by shared history and destiny or geography and colonial boundaries?
Forget superhighways, cruising trains, and free wi-fi. There is much more to people’s lives than material infrastructure.
There is the software — that is where it hurts most. This is the soft underbelly of any regime. Is the citizens’ daily ugali guaranteed? Do they have a roof over their heads? What about healthcare?
The August 8 General Election is a test of wits, ideas, and manifestos. Both sides of the power class are struggling for our hearts and hands. They know you do not ask a people for their votes before you appeal to their hearts. You do not ask for a hand in marriage before capturing the heart of the victim of passion.
This is the challenge for incumbents and those who aspire to state power. The onus is always on the incumbent. Those in power do not promise; they present a scorecard.
How well or how shoddily were promises of five years ago handled? Another cocktail of deception or are there measurable results? Is it ‘Tano Tena’ or ‘Tano Fresh’? Is it a new beginning or business-as-usual?
The year 1963 - the epoch of our political independence - was a new dawn that degenerated into a false start. Ethnic hegemony and grandiosity of the power clique soon replaced the national interest.
The year 2002, when the National Rainbow Coalition replaced the Kanu lootocracy after 39 years of blunder and plunder, was another false start. Those who herded together to hound out the Kanu state splintered once the prey was clamped.
The deputy captain of the Narc revolution, Raila Odinga, was locked out a day after the Rainbow Revolution. President Mwai Kibaki had arrived. Political correctness replaced the Narc euphoria.
The year 2017 is another night of the long knives. Of seduction and mendacity. Of unfulfilled pledges and new promises from the Jubilee state. Of promises and hope from the National Super Alliance. Which one shall the electorate buy?
In 2013, the Jubilee state promised to “expand, equip and modernise our security agencies to ensure every Kenyan is guaranteed their safety and their property”. The voter is the judge, as many run parallel security bills in estates and businesses. Double taxation.
The promise of food security of 2013 flounders, as citizens hunt for unga.
One newspaper page reports promises of a healthy Kenya on a day the same publication carries an account of patients dying, as the strike by nurses closes a month.
Historical injustices identified in the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission report are unresolved, as new promises are made to right previous wrongs. Meanwhile, ethnic tensions simmer, as promises lie in unredeemed justice accounts.
With promises and lies littering the electoral path, voters should say, once bitten twice shy.